Hundreds Say Nebraska Group Tricked Them Into Signing Anti-Abortion Ballot

The secretary of state’s office says over 300 people have requested their signatures be removed after the anti-abortion group Protect Women & Children deceived them. Some voters say the group claimed their petition is "pro-choice."

Hundreds Say Nebraska Group Tricked Them Into Signing Anti-Abortion Ballot

Last week, the Nebraska abortion rights group Protect Our Rights submitted close to double the number of signatures required to get their proposed measure to enshrine a right to abortion on the ballot. But they’re competing with the deceptively named anti-abortion campaign Protect Women & Children, which is trying to get their own measure to codify a 12-week abortion ban in the state Constitution on the ballot. (Abortion is currently banned at 12 weeks in the state, but this proposal would further crystallize the law.) Voters and abortion rights activists have previously raised that Protect Women & Children has been lying to voters and saying that their ballot measure is “pro-choice” to get people to sign. Earlier this month, the Nebraska secretary of state’s office told the Associated Press that 91 different people submitted affidavits requesting the removal of their signatures from abortion-related petitions after being compelled to sign under false pretenses.

However, the extent of Protect Women & Children’s deception is even greater than previously reported, according to the Nebraska Examiner. The secretary of state’s office actually received at least 348 signed affidavits requesting the removal of signatures from abortion-related measures. Several anti-abortion groups have been circulating petitions to get on the November ballot but 304 of these 348 requests were just about Protect Women & Children’s petition. (There are 12 requests related to Protect Our Rights’ abortion rights petition.) This, the Examiner notes, is the most affidavits ever filed against a single petition in the state’s history. 

In May, Protect Our Rights obtained audio of a Protect Women & Children organizer attempting to mislead a voter and avoid disclosing that their proposed ballot measure would ban abortion. Protect Our Rights shared this audio with Jezebel. “It’s a petition to allow a woman to have an abortion when it comes to rape, incest or the health of the woman,” the anti-abortion organizer says.

According to one voter who sent an affidavit to the secretary of state’s office, she signed Protect Women & Children’s petition after a volunteer told her theirs was a “pro-choice” petition. When she learned what she’d actually signed, she asked for her signature to be removed: “I was like, ‘No, I just want my name off it.’ Then he [the Protect Women & Children volunteer] said, ‘Well then just vote no later.’” The voter said she then connected with Protect Our Rights, which helped her file an affidavit.

State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, a vocal advocate for abortion rights who works with the Protect Our Rights campaign, told the Examiner she’s heard extensively from voters who have been approached and misled by Protect Women & Children. Hunt said that based on her conversations, she suspects hundreds if not thousands of voters have signed Protect Women & Children’s petition thinking they were signing an abortion rights petition. As the Protect Our Rights campaign stressed to Jezebel last week, submitting an affidavit requires voters spend time and effort to contact state officials.

Hunt also alleged she’s heard from a voter who was told by the anti-abortion group that she could sign the petition for her entire family. Nebraska law requires individual voters to sign for themselves.

A spokesperson for the Protect Women & Children campaign wrote off the allegations and hundreds of affidavits as a “spectacle” in a statement to the Examiner, and claimed the group “has an unprecedented volunteer army going into November.”

To get on the ballot, both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups needed to submit 123,000 valid signatures by July 3. Protect Our Rights says it submitted 207,000 signatures, while Protect Women & Children says it submitted 205,000. The secretary of state’s office is in the early stage of counting and validating these signatures.

Deception and tricky tactics have become anti-abortion activists’ and politicians’ primary means of trying to block abortion rights ballot measures. In Missouri, anti-abortion groups this cycle have texted voters en masse lying that signing in support of an abortion rights ballot measure would compromise their “private data.” In South Dakota, they’ve posed as government officials to call and harass voters to try to get them to revoke their signatures from a similar abortion rights measure. In Arkansas, they lied to voters that the abortion rights measure had successfully collected signatures and no longer needed support

In particular, if Protect Women & Children’s lies about being “pro-choice” sound familiar, that’s because they are: In 2022, Kansas anti-abortion activists used similar methods, branding their measure to remove a right to abortion from the state Constitution as “pro-women” and an act of “valuing them both.” Anti-abortion activists—aware of the unpopularity of their position—have increasingly been co-opting feminist language, claiming abortion is harmful for women and their unborn daughters, and pushing paternalistic messaging that we “deserve better.” 

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